Teams don't have success without high-quality goaltending, so it's no surprise the New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings and Nashville Predators have done so well this season.
The Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist, the Kings' Jonathan Quick and the Predators' Pekka Rinne have been named finalists for this year's Vezina Trophy, awarded "to the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at his position" as voted by the general managers of each of the 30 clubs.
The winner will be announced at the 2012 NHL Awards Show, June 20 at the Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas.
Rinne signed a seven-year contract extension in November, and showed this season why he was so deserving of the richest deal in franchise history.
The League's workhorse goaltender -- no goalie played more than his 73 games -- Rinne led the League with 43 wins. He was seventh with a .923 save percentage while facing the most shots in the League (2,153). He also had a 2.39 GAA and five shutouts.
With Rinne in goal, the Predators finished fourth in the Western Conference with 104 points, their best season since 2006-07.
Predators goalie coach Mitch Korn told the Tennessean that the last time he saw a goalie play as well as Rinne was Dominik Hasek, who he coached in Buffalo in four of his six Vezina-winning seasons.
"The two of them are very comparable in that they're busy goalies, they like being busy and they're who the team relies on," Korn said. "That's why Pekka was a Vezina Trophy nominee a year ago … and Hasek was for a number of years.
"That's what top guys do -- they make good teams very good."
Lundqvist, already considered one of the elite goalies in the League, had perhaps his best season. He won a career-best 39 games while playing just 62, the fewest since his rookie season. He also had career-bests this season with a 1.97 goals-against average and .930 save percentage. He was in the top four in the League in wins, GAA, save percentage and shutouts (eight).
With Lundqvist at his best, the Rangers finished atop the Eastern Conference for the first time since the 1993-94 season.
"He is the backbone of our team, always has been," Rangers coach John Tortorella told Newsday. "He is one of the strongest competitors that I've seen as an athlete. Sometimes as a goalie, you don't see it. With him, you do."
No player in the League was as valuable to his team as Quick was to the Kings. Starting a personal-best 69 games, he had 35 of the team's 40 wins this season. He led the League with 10 shutouts, was second with a 1.95 GAA and fifth with a .929 save percentage.
His accomplishments came with almost no margin for error, as the Kings were 29th in the League in scoring at 2.29 goals per game. And while he had 34 losses in regulation, overtime or shootouts, the Kings scored two goals or fewer in 15 of them, and one goal or less in nine.
Thanks to Quick's play, the Kings were able to snag the final playoff spot in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.
"He's not just our best player, he's our most consistent," Kings captain Dustin Brown told the National Post. "The quiet confidence filters down to the rest of the players. It's huge."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
Author: Adam Kimelman | NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor